Exclusive: 30 Days of Night: Dark Days Wraps Production - Director Ben Ketai Speaks!
This scribe recently caught up with Sony’s 30 Days of Night: Dark Days co-scripter (with Steve Niles) and director Ben Ketai, who filled us in on the status of his sequel to director David Slade’s 2007 vampire chiller 30 Days of Night.
Dread was on-set during the principal photography of Dark Days last November in Vancouver. See that item here.
“We’re in the last couple of weeks of post-production,” Ketai, who previously helmed the 30 Days web series, said of Dark Days in early April. “It’s the home stretch here. We are in that last stage where every little bit you put into it makes it that much better: the sound, the color, and every new effects shot that goes in – it’s really exciting.”
Starring Kiele (A Perfect Getaway) Sanchez, who takes over the role of ‘Stella’ as essayed by actress Melissa George in 30 Days of Night, Mia (De Palma’s The Black Dahlia) Kirshner, Rhys ("Entourage") Coiro, Diora (Night of the Demons) Baird, Harold ("Lost") Perrineau, Troy (A Marine Story) Ruptash, Monique (Cabin in the Woods) Ganderton, and Katherine (Ginger Snaps, "Supernatural") Isabelle, Dark Days picks up a year after the original with Stella on a mission to eradicate the world’s vampire populace in order to avenge the death of her husband.
Scheduled for a DTV bow, the director said of the flick’s release plans, “I’m hoping that maybe it will be out by Halloween, although the market is always saturated with horror movies every October. Maybe Sony will want to wait until the horror season blows over.”
As for his cinematic take on Steve Niles well-received 2004 graphic novel Dark Days (30 Days of Night, Book 2), “The film opens with sort of a montage of Stella reminiscing about what happened in Barrow eleven months earlier so one of the first scenes we see in Dark Days is that helicopter overhead shot (of the carnage) from the original,” revealed Ketai. “This movie begins with the last images of the first film, where Stella is holding Eben on the hillside and he burns up as the sun comes up, so I wanted to stay very true to that and thought it was a great opportunity for us to recap what happened at the end of the first movie for those who haven’t seen it. At the same time I wanted to introduce Kiele Sanchez as the new Stella and get it over and move along.”
“What’s sort of cool about it, too, is that Kiele plays such a different Stella in a narrative sense,” continued Ketai, “in that she goes through such a change in that year from the first story to the second story that I think it’s kind of cool that we have a different actress (for the role). I think Kiele’s going to be a household name in a couple of years, if not from this film than from something else. She’s really incredible.”
Portraying Sanchez’s immortal nemesis in Dark Days is actress Mia Kirshner, and Dread queried the director on that actress’ approach to malevolent role of ‘Lilith,’ a vamp apparently older and deadlier than the original film’s ‘big bad’ Marlow (Danny Huston). “Mia was awesome and brought everything you’d expect from Mia Kirshner,” said Ketai. “For such a slight person as she (physically) is, she commands such power. The fact that her character of Lilith is powerful and is the queen of the vampires - possibly the oldest vampire on the planet - she doesn’t even really need to lift a finger to get shit done. Her henchmen and everyone around her kind of take care of things, and all of her actions are so minimal that whenever she does anything physically, it’s completely horrifying, and you are just sitting there waiting for her to speak or waiting for her to roll across the room, and we’ve tried to embrace that stoicism and that sort of eerie calm that comes with Lilith. I thought Kirshner was a great casting choice because she’s an actress that can say a whole lot without saying anything. She really did a nice job stepping into the role.”
As for the aural component of the film, Andres Boulton served in the capacity of the flick’s composer, and according to Ketai, “He did the score for the 30 Days of Night web series that I directed, and I thought he really knocked it out of the park with that, and I really wanted to see what he could do with a feature. He’s done a number of other features before – slasher films and a couple of comedies even. This film has really given him a chance to do what he does best, though, which is to deliver a very atmospheric score.”
“It is very different from the first film,” said the director of his approach to the material. “It’s been a challenge to maintain the integrity of the world that was created in the first film because we are working with about an eighth of the budget of what the first movie had. Funny enough, the story of Dark Days in the graphic novel is actually much less claustrophobic than the first film, which really capitalized on claustrophobia, and in this film - unfortunately with our budget - it’s a much bigger scaled movie because it’s all about Stella going in a journey to different cities.”
With the geographical shift, too, came a visual one.
“I really wanted to bring a very different color palette to Dark Days, much like the graphic novel had a different palette than the original, which was a desaturated and very monochromatic look, and here we created sort of more of a warm, tobacco-y, Southern California metropolis-like Los Angeles look,” said Ketai. “The thing about the 30 Days universe is that it’s so malleable. The vampires that Niles originally created were so unique to the genre, and in Dark Days they go even beyond that. In putting the vampires in a completely different context and setting, and with the lower budget of this film, we did a lot of hand-held (camera work), whereas with the first film it was much more of a slow and steady approach. I think (30 Days of Night helmer) David Slade did an amazing job of capturing the suspense with that story; he did a masterful job. With this film it’s kind of the opposite. It’s kind of almost like a forward-marching war movie with vampires, and we approached it with that kinetic, hand-held feel.”
Dread couldn’t help but to ask if fans of the material can expect a cinematic incarnation of the third book in the series, Return to Barrow.
“I hope so,” concluded the director. “I actually asked that question a couple of weeks ago. iles and I talk about it every now and then. In the back of my mind I’ve already been excited and eager to hopefully jump into (development on) Return to Barrow. I think it would be an awesome story to tell.”
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